August 28, 2009

Lions, lions and more lions! That just about sums up the month of August here in the Serengeti. It would seem that on just about every game drive in the Lobo Valley of the North Serengeti or in the Seronera Valley of the Central Serengeti, our guests are being overwhelmed with incredible lion action. One returning group reported seeing 142 different lions over the course of their 10 day safari (8 actual nights in the bush). Way to go Monica LaRose family. That has to be some sort of Africa Dream Safaris record!

Where do we start summarizing the lion action for August? How about Dawn Moss and her family who saw a double lion kill by the Seronera River. Dawn and her family watched a pride of 5 lioness successfully hunt 2 different Thomson’s Gazelles. The lions ambushed the gazelles as they came to drink from the Seronera River and showed exactly why lions are so successful in the Serengeti by demonstrating their cooperative hunting skills.

Then, there were Brad and Stacy Robertson who patiently waited (at the urging of their guide) near Lobo Springs in the North Serengeti for over 3 hours until a pride of 8 lioness and 2 male lions successfully overcame a loan bull buffalo. We heard it was quite an epic battle! And, how about Sharon and Matt Ebright who had an interesting experience watching a male baboon attempt to scavenge from a lion kill. Unfortunately, for the baboon there were lions hiding in the tall grass who sprang upon the baboon and quickly overpowered it.

Lastly and on a more sobering note, we had guests witness a seldom seen occurrence of lion infanticide in the North Serengeti where incoming males taking over a new pride kill all the young cubs. In doing this, the new males get rid of all the offspring that do not carry their genes and the act triggers the females to quickly enter estrous. As a result, the new pride males have a better chance of quickly raising their offspring to maturity before the next team of male rivals knocks them from power. In the competitive world of the Serengeti, male lions usually hold their tenure as pride leaders for only 2 – 4 years before being ousted. The larger the male coalition the longer the tenure. There is inherent strength in numbers and hence in the Serengeti where lion densities are so high, it is not unusual to see lion prides with coalitions of up to six males. And, what an awe inspiring sight it is to see a large coalition of males in the prime of their life roaring in unison to claim their territory (surely this is one of the most impressive experiences one can have in the Serengeti).

On the wildebeest migration front, the herds are currently splintered into 3 main groups with one group ranging from the Western Corridor into the Grumeti Game Reserve, another (the largest) is ranging from Wogakuria in the North Serengeti into the Lamai Triangle and a 3rd group is scattered throughout the Mara watershed area of the Masai Mara in Kenya. The Mara River crossings (though not as dramatic as last year due to the low water levels) have been taking place periodically throughout the entire month of August. We have seen increased crossings over the last 1 – 2 weeks as quite a few large herds of wildebeest keep crossing and recrossing both northbound and southbound (perhaps chasing the scattered thundershowers we have been receiving throughout the northern extension of the Serengeti). In any event, migration sightings of all 4 migratory herbivores in the Serengeti (wildebeest, zebra, eland and Thomson’s gazelle) remain good with the best sightings taking place at the northern tip of the Serengeti near Wogakuria and the Lamai Triangle.

In the Serengeti it’s easy to focus on the large animals especially on one’s first african safari. The big cats and large herbivores (elephant, giraffe, hippo, etc.) and the famed migration tend to steal the show here in the Serengeti (and rightfully so as there is no where else in Africa where one can see this diversity of wildlife so predictably and in such a pristine setting). But, sometimes it’s the ‘little things’ that are the most rewarding. Everyone has heard of the Big 5 (elephant, leopard, buffalo, lion and rhino) but the little 5 (elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, ant lion and rhinoceros beetle) and the many other little creatures that make the Serengeti Ecosystem such an amazing place can be equally as rewarding. Perhaps the most elusive of the little 5 so to speak is the mystical pangolin. This is perhaps the rarest animal inhabiting the Serengeti (only spoken about in hush tones). As you can imagine, what a delight it was that our very own client here at Africa Dream Safaris was able to spot one. We had to see the picture with our very own eyes to believe it! In keeping with the little creatures of the Serengeti, we would like to give a special thanks to Dale and Eileen Podoll who sent in this fabulous photo of a lilac breasted roller. Here’s to the little 5! Make sure to double click on the photo to expand to full screen.

Lilac Breasted Roller - Serengeti National Park

Lilac Breasted Roller - Serengeti National Park

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